Rachel is the kind of woman who other women could easily hate…in an envious sort of way. She’s bright, bubbly, hugely confident, and not afraid to say what she wants, when she wants it and how she’s going to get it. Some people just seem to have this wave of energy around them that flattens out the curves and bumps of life ahead no matter what they’re doing. That’s Rachel. Three kids, a wacky cobbled together source of income managing food co-ops, but such that allows her to flex her working hours around ferrying kids to and from around town.
Recently one of our conversations centered on one’s personal space and place, as in the “place” we go to that’s all our own, such as a favorite room, a chair, the garden or a special outdoor spot where one finds respite from the grind of daily life. I was intrigued by the concept of what she shared and thought others might be too.
“When my kids were little,” she said, “I had a little room, a closet really, that held a table, a chair, and a beat up old love seat that I retreated to whenever I was close to strangling one of my kids. It didn’t have a door, so I painted a bright red line where the threshold would have been and told my kids that they were not to cross the “red line” ever, unless of course it was an emergency. It worked. Somehow the trail of toys, the sticky fingers…even my husband, stayed just on the other side of that red line. I could leave a magazine I was reading on the arm of the chair and return three hours later and it would still be there, untouched. We called it “Mommy Space,” and I taught my kids that when mommy entered Mommy Space that they were encouraged not to talk with me but to go find something else to do. The funny thing was that once or twice when my kids didn’t notice that I had left the room to do something else, I could hear them say to each other, “let’s ask Mommy when she comes out of Mommy Space.” I even heard them incorporate “Mommy Space” into their fantasy chatter while playing house, so I knew that it was working.”
For some of us, having our own little nook or space is absolutely normal and essential, and for others it’s a foreign concept entirely. Perhaps it has something to do with our own life rhythms and personal style of tooling through the day. “Claiming space” and having your own special place to retreat to is also about managing stress and taking care of ourselves.
Some people, especially women, claim their entire home as their personal space. While men, it is noted, frequently lay claim to certain “outer reaches” of the home such as garages, basements and backyard sheds. One dad, who single parents three kids, told me once that he sometimes sits in his truck and just thinks. He said, “ I just sit there, no radio, not talking on the phone, I just sit there and do absolutely nothing!” He laughs, “If I sit in my truck too long, my oldest daughter comes out to get me, saying, “The neighbors will think your losing it, dad. Are you coming inside soon?’”
And speaking of vehicles, we all know that many people experience a sense of retreat and sanctuary within their personal vehicles. In my area, living in a seaside community means that many people, often in their work vehicles, find their way to the ocean’s edge around sunrise and sunset to just sit and enjoy the beauty unfolding upon the horizon. It’s not uncommon to see trucks belonging to plumbers, construction workers, even an occasional ambulance or police cruiser taking some personal time to just sit. Some might be reading or eating, but the point is that they’re taking some time away from the routine of what they do, which is something most of us crave, need, and don’t get enough of. At our local schools, for example, it’s not uncommon to see handfuls of parents at every school arriving 30-45 minutes early to pick up their children. They pull in, turn off the motor and start reading, listening to music, or just sleep.
The point is we all benefit by having a place where we can go to that feels right, restful, and intentional which we can call our own. My friend Rachel discovered this early on in her parenting years and continues still to recognize her need to claim her own personal space at some point during her busy day. What kind of personal space or place do you claim for yourself? What makes it work? And if money or time were no object, what would be your ultimate place to chill, relax and get away from it all…if even for a few minutes each day?